Tech & Work

Mispronunciations that make you sound stupid

TechRepublic ran an article about the 10 grammar mistakes that make you look stupid. The examples cited involved the misuse of words in written and verbal communications. I'd like to go a step farther here and talk about words that may be used correctly but are pronounced wrong. They also may be much more flagrant examples of stupidity. A caveat: My ear may be abnormally sensitive to mispronunciations since in college I developed an unnatural affinity for linguistics (can you say "Get a life?"). However, people often make snap decisions about character and intelligence based on their language biases, so it's something you should be aware of. Here are some of my pet peeves that you may or may not ever use in your life:

Realtor. Many people—I've even heard it from people on national tv—pronounce this word REAL-uh-ter. Is this a case of wide-spread dyslexia—transposing the a and the l? It's REAL-tor. That's it. You'd think only two syllables would be easier to pronounce, but apparently not.

Nuclear. Do you know how tough it is to be an advocate for the correct pronunciation of this word (NU-clee-er) when the President of the United States pronounces it NU-cu-lar? I don't buy that it's a regional thing. Ya'll is a regional thing, nu-cu-lar is not.

Jewelry. It's not JOO-la-ree, it's JOOL-ree. Again with the making things harder by turning a word into three syllables. What's with that?

Supposedly/supposably. The latter is a non-existent word.

Supposed to/suppose to: I think this one is a matter of a lazy tongue than ignorance. It takes an extra beat in there to emphasize the "d" at the end, but it's worth it. And never omit the "d" if you're using the term in a written communication or people will think you were raised in a hollowed-out tree trunk somewhere.

Used to/use to: Same as above.

Anyway/anyways. There's no "s" at the end. I swear. Look it up.

February/Febuary: As much as it galls me, there is an r between the b and the u. When you pronounce the word correctly it should sound like you're trying to talk with a mouthful of marbles—FEB broo ary.

Recur/reoccur: Though the latter is tempting, it's not a word. And again, why add another syllable if you don't need it?

Mischievous/mischievious: I know, I know, it sounds so Basil Rathbone to say MIS cha vous, but that's the right way. Mis CHEE vee us is more commonly used, but it's wrong.

And last but not least, my personal all-time pet peeve—the word often. It should be pronounced OFF un, not OFF tun. The t is silent.


Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

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